You are on page 1of 2

A Cloud Computing Platform to Augment Mobile Phone

Use in Marginalized Rural Areas

Thoba Lose and Mamello Thinyane
Telkom Centre of Excellence in ICT for Development
Department of Computer Science
University of Fort Hare, P. O. Box X1314, Alice 5700, RSA
Tel: +27 40 6022464, Fax: +27 40 6022464
Email: {tlose, mthinyane}
Abstract: The proliferation of mobile devices and the
recent developments in computing technology hold the
potential of addressing the digital divide challenge,
which is pertinent in Marginalized Rural Areas (MRAs).
Simultaneous developments in cloud computing also
provide new ways of offering innovative ICT solutions,
typically in enterprise environments. Mobile Cloud
Computing, which is a combination of mobile computing
and cloud computing, provides ideal services to support
mobile users in MRAs. In Mobile Cloud Computing,
mobile devices do not need high-end resources (e.g.,
processing speed, storage and memory capacity) since all
the data and complex computing can be offloaded to the
cloud. In this research, we propose the use of Cloud
Computing infrastructure to augment the use of mobile
phones in Information and Communication Technology
for Development (ICTD) contexts. We investigate the
kinds of services the cloud can offer to improve and
support the use of mobile phones. We also aim to
implement a Mobile Cloud Computing Platform for use
within an ICTD intervention, called Siyakhula Living
Lab (SLL).
Index TermsMobile Computing, Cloud Computing,
Siyakhula Living Lab



Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has

emerged as one of the most innovative technology areas
impacting a wide range of industries, business models and
social patterns. Currently, the new challenge for reducing the
digital divide in developing countries is to improve access to
ICT, especially through mobile phones [1, 2]. For many
developing countries, phones and Internet connections have
reached the general public through fixed line infrastructure.
Mobile cellular technology has been the most rapidly
adopted technology in history. Today, it is the most popular
and widespread personal technology on the planet [3].
According to the International Telecommunications Union
(ITU), developing countries have increased their share of the
worlds total number of Internet users from 44% in 2006, to
62% in 2011. With 5.9 billion Mobile-cellular subscriptions,
global penetration reaches 87% and 79% in the developing
world. Mobile broadband subscriptions have grown 45%
annually over the last four years and today there are twice as
many mobile broadband as fixed broadband subscriptions
[4]. There is currently no indication of the mobile phone
usage trend slowing down in developing countries. As
mobile phones converge and provide banking, education,
health, agriculture and entertainment services, it is difficult
to anticipate or predict their future use trajectory.

Cloud Computing (CC) technology enables individuals

and businesses around the world to connect to data,
information and computing resources anywhere and anytime:
reducing cost, increasing storage, automating systems, and
decoupling service delivery from underlying technology. It
enables developing countries, with limited IT resources, to
participate in the global knowledge economy on an equal
footing with developed nations, through accessing IT
resources in the cloud [3, 5]. The main concept behind CC is
providing services; namely, Software as a service, Platform
as a service and Infrastructure as a service. The combination
of CC, wireless communication infrastructure, portable
computing devices, location-based services, and mobile web
computing has laid the foundation for a novel computing
model, called Mobile Cloud Computing (MCC), which
allows users an online access to unlimited computing power
and storage space, taking CC features to the mobile domain
The current mobile device market in third world countries
consists of a plethora of phones. While it is true that
smartphones will grow in percentage and feature phones will
become more sophisticated in time, there is no indication
that these lower-end phones, which are prevalent in the
developing world, are going away anytime soon [6]. The
feature phones and lower-end phones are anticipated to be
the main driver behind the MCC trend. Not only is there a
larger number of people using feature phones in the world,
there are also more web developers capable of building
mobile web applications [6].
In this research, we view MCC as a potential technology
to augment mobile phone use in marginalized rural areas.
Mobile cloud applications offload the computing and data
storage away from mobile phones and into the cloud,
bringing applications and mobile computing to not just
smartphone users but a much broader range of mobile users.
A number of cloud based mechanisms have been
suggested to improve the capacity and reliability of mobile
devices. Marinelli introduces Hyrax, a MCC client that
allows mobile devices to use CC platforms [7]. Hyrax allows
applications to conveniently use data and execute computing
jobs on smartphone networks and heterogeneous networks of
phones and servers. Research has been focused primarily on
the implementation and evaluation of MCC infrastructure
based on MapReduce [7]. The problem with this mechanism
is that it only supports Android based mobile devices.
Giurgiu et al. [8] use the cloud as the container for mobile
applications. Applications are pre-processed based on the
current context of the user, so only the bundles that can run
on the local device and minimize the communication
overhead with the cloud are offloaded to the mobile device
from the cloud. They focus on partition policies to support
the execution of application on mobile devices, and do not

tackle any other MCC related issue.

Huerta-Canepa and Dongman envision a way to overcome
the problem of cost and availability of the cloud by creating
a virtual CC platform using mobile phones [9]. This
mechanism imitates a traditional cloud provider using
mobile devices in the vicinity of users. They argue that due
to the ubiquity of mobile phones and the enhancement in
their capabilities this idea is feasible. The problem with this
mechanism is that it assumes the nearby nodes are in stable
mode, meaning that they will remain on the same area or
follow the same pattern as if riding on a bus to some
In this research we propose that: Cloud Computing can
be implemented in an efficient and scalable manner to
augment the use of mobile phones in rural/marginalized
communities. This statement will be validated through the
development of an efficient and scalable MCC Platform for
ICTD contexts (e.g. SLL). This will entail investigating how
to utilize CC technologies to facilitate one of the grand
visions of modern IT: anytime, anywhere computing. We
aim to identify and develop services that will leverage the
plethora of phones that exist in marginalized communities
services such as cloud storage, cloud-based VoIP services,
and cloud-based messaging services. The MCC platform will
be developed using one or a combination of the following
emerging cloud software environments and existing
platforms: ownCloud, Eucalyptus, OpenNebula, OpenStack,
OpenMobster, Twilio API, Open Cloud Computing Interface
(OCCI), and Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI).
When evaluating the system we will take into consideration
various important aspects of MCC systems. These include
computational and communication requirements, mobile
network impact, energy considerations, information security,
system reliability and application usability.

through the Internet. In the cloud, cloud controllers process

the requests to provide mobile users with the corresponding
cloud services. These services are developed with the
concepts of utility computing, virtualization, and serviceoriented architecture [10].
In this paper, we have introduced CC and also examined
existing solutions for MCC. The evolution of mobile
applications enabled via CC technology for use in
developing countries clearly unfolds a much greater
opportunity for developing countries to participate in the
global knowledge economy on an equal footing with
developed nations. ICTD clouds will greatly enhance and
bring dramatic improvements to existing development
efforts. In this research, we see CC as a promising
technology with interesting implications that can offer many
benefits for mobile devices in marginalized rural
This work is undertaken within the Telkom Centre of
Excellence in ICT for Development. Financial support from
the National Research Fund (NRF), Technology and Human
Resources for Industry Programme (THRIP), Telkom SA,
Tellabs, Saab Grintek Technologies and Easttel is hereby
[1] Yang. Z, (2011), Looking Beyond Utility Model Disruptive
Cloud Computing for Future ICT4D Research, International
Conference on Computer Communication and Management.
[2] Taher. A.S, Tsuji. M, (2011), The Development of ICT for
Envisioning Cloud Computing and Innovation in South Asia.,
International Journal of Innovation in the Digital Economy.
[3] Goundar. S, (2010), Cloud computing: Opportunities and
issues for developing countries, DiploFoundation.
[4] ITU, (2011), ICT Facts and Figures; the World in 2011.









Data Centre

Mobile Network Services

Mobile Network

Application Servers

Figure 1: The General MCC Architecture (adapted from 10)

The general architecture of MCC, as proposed by Hoang et

al. [10] is shown in the figure above. Mobile devices are
connected to the mobile networks via base stations that
establish and control the connections and functional
interfaces between the networks and mobile devices. Mobile
users requests and information are transmitted to the central
processors that are connected to servers providing mobile
network services. Here, mobile network operators can
provide services to mobile users as authentication,
authorization, and accounting (AAA) based on the home
agent (HA) and subscribers data stored in databases. After
that, the subscribers requests are delivered to a cloud

[5] Bajad. R. A, Srivastava. M and Sinha. A, (2012), Survey on

Mobile Cloud Computing, International journal of Engineering
Sciences and Emerging Technologies.
[6] Mallikharjuna. N. R, Sasidhar. C and Satyendra. K. V, (2011),
Cloud Computing Through Mobile-Learning
[7] E. Marinelli, (2009), Hyrax: Cloud Computing on Mobile
Devices using MapReduce, Master Thesis Draft, Computer
Science Dept. CMU,
[8] Giurgiu. I, Riva. O, Juric. D, Krivulev. I and Alonso. G,
(2009), Calling the Cloud: A Look at Cloud Mobile
Convergence, International Symposium on Ubiquitous Virtual
Reality, vol.0.
[9] Huerta-Canepa. G and Dongman. L, (2010), A Virtual Cloud
Computing Provider for Mobile Devices. ACM Workshop on
Mobile Cloud Computing and Services: Social Networks and
[10] Hoang. D.T, Lee. C, Niyato. D and Wang. P, (2010), A
Survey of Mobile Cloud Computing: Architecture, Applications
and Approaches. Wireless Communications and Mobile
Computing, Wiley.
Thoba Lose obtained his B.Sc. Honours (Computer Science) in 2011 from
the University of Fort Hare and is presently studying towards his Master
of Science degree at the same institution. His research interests include
Internet Services and End User Applications, ICTD and Cloud Computing.